What 2nd Gens Need From Their Dad

Barnabas Piper, son of John Piper, wrote about 7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from a Father. I sent it to my four kids and asked them how I measured up (or did not). They love me and perhaps that is why they did not respond. So I evaluated myself. The seven things a kid needs from their dad who is a pastor, shepherd, Bible teacher, or missionary are:

  1. A dad, not a pastor.
  2. Conversation, not sermons.
  3. Your interest in their hobbies.
  4. To be studied.
  5. Consistency from you.
  6. Grace to fail.
  7. A single moral standard.

1. and 2. A dad who converses. Am I first a dad to my kids (rather than their “shepherd and Bible teacher”)? Do I converse with them, or do I give them my sermon outline and my Bible study bullet points? Since I have taught the Bible for over three decades, it is easy to “tell them spiritual truths,” rather than listen, which is my life long fault (Jas 1:19). Also, being Asian, I do not easily connect emotionally with my kids, unlike my wife. It is awkward for me to say to anyone in my own family, “I love you.” I have been slammed for this and rightly so. Thankfully, my kids are now all over 22 years old, and they are my dearest friends, confidants, and even counselors. Grade: C-D.

3. Hobbies. I have little interest in my kid’s hobbies, except for watching sports together on occasion. Grade: E.

4. Study. I think I do study my kids to try to understand them and their personality. Grade: C.

5. and 7. Consistency and morality. Am I the same person at home as I am in church? I think that I am…most of the time. My kids know of my deficiencies and weaknesses: impatience, being reactive, talking back aggressively, and defaulting to an attack mode. They know I avoid doing household chores and am an expert at delegating, that I am picky about my food, that I know numerous inconsequential movie and sports trivia, and how badly I messed up when I lost $1,000,000. Despite my blatantly obvious failings, I believe they know that I love Jesus and their mom, and that, in spite of myself, I want to live to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Grade: B-C.

6. Grace. For many years, I expected my kids to live up to what I expected of them, which is to live honorably as a Christian before God and man. As a result, I inadvertently promoted some legalism, by compelling them to behave well publicly and to live before people. As I began to understand the grace of Jesus more myself, I am also able to extend grace to them, rather than expectation, and thus entrusting them to God. Grade: B-C.

How would you grade yourself if you are a dad? If you are a son or daughter, how would your dad grade?


  1. This is a response to this post on facebook by a 2nd Gen:

    Sensational material. I think we are finally opening our eyes to the importance of balancing parenthood and mission work.

    I grew up feeling many of the things mentioned in the article. Here’s a bit of my life story – Mom and dad would always be busy with prayer meetings, bible studies, early morning prayers, sunday worship service and so on. Most of the memories I have about my childhood days (age 5-11) are of me and my sister alone at home, bored, afraid and missing our parents. This lasted till me and my sister became old enough to do our own thing whilst they were gone (watching tv, playing computer games etc.)

    I believe that even though mission work is truly important, what surpasses the same is taking care of your family as a father or a mother. Not being pastors and spiritual teachers to your kids, but loving, caring and wise parents. I REALLY WISH THAT IF I WENT TO DADDY WITH MY PROBLEMS, THAT HE NOT GIVE ME SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND SERMONS AND BIBLICAL EXAMPLES, BUT HIS INNER WISDOM THAT HE HIMSELF LEARNT FROM LIFE AND FROM FOLLOWING THE CHRISTIAN PATH.

    I feel that even though much awareness has arisen from the collective thoughts of 2nd gens, there is not much being done when it comes to truly learning to be a father and a mother figure within the UBF community. Of course, God’s grace eventually helps parents learn and grow but I believe that UBF has to have a specific ‘community group/convention’ about parenthood by helping UBF workers understand the importance of family over mission work, providing tips and how to’s to deal with their children and providing wisdom on how to integrate faith, love, wisdom into the essence of being a parent.

    My mom and dad gave much of their time to their mission work. But all of the members of our family agree that our family was a dysfunctional family. Currently, we have been healed and continue to renew our relationship to each other.

    But I believe that I DID NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH ALL THAT. And that OTHER 2nd GENS DO NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH ALL THAT. If one is TRULY a man/woman of GOD, I believe that his/her family would be first priority over mission work as he/she realizes the importance of it over evangelisation.





    I am not venting, blaming or accusing anybody or the organization.

    I am merely stating honestly and truthfully, my thoughts and feelings about how much more we can do and accomplish.

  2. “How would you grade yourself if you are a dad?”

    My self-grade is “F”. I lived 24 years as a ubf-man and never learned how to be a father or a husband. I am just now learning what those roles mean. In ubf I always relegated being a father or a husband as being sinful. Those who focused on learning such things were far less spiritual than me (so I thought). Those who wanted to form a good family were worthless for God’s mission (so I thought)… Now I see how wrong I was. Family is in fact God’s mission. Family responsibility always supersedes ubf heritage/ideology.

  3. Once I attended a conference track session about parenting. The discussion focused on, “How can we raise our children to be good coworkers for the ministry.” One adult second gen stood up and said, practically in tears, “All my life, I felt that my value as a child only came from how ‘useful’ I was to my parents’ ministry, and whether I benefited their ministry. The content of this track session confirms this feeling, and I’m heartbroken for the children who will grow up with the same expectations and experience as I did.” (I paraphrase) I was sad to hear his words. It makes me want to be extra careful that I do not see my children pragmatically or treat them merely as “helpers.” Jesus didn’t call his disciples servants but friends.

    • Joshua, your points are exactly why I have such a difficult time with the phrase “used by God” nowadays. Everyone in ubf is evaluated based on their usefulness to passing on the heritage. No one feels the pain of such wrongful thinking than children of missionaries/shepherds in ubf.

      In case any of our readers think this issue is going away, this has been an ongoing discussion for many, many years, such as these public thoughts from 2006.

      It also doesn’t help to have agendas like “active integration“:

      Basic strategy of Active Integration:
      – 2nd gens and shepherds need help equally.
      – Priority: Have clear priority whether children or mission come first.
      – It is the Holy Spirit who does the work. But the 2nd gens need help in following the guidance of the Holy Spirit: God’s word, spiritual value system, spiritual training

      Nor does it help to have teaching material for children with the insane goal to make them “superman”. At least we have some truthful statements from such official teaching slides, like this:

      “UBF fishing is an exercise in ruling situations.”

      “Another purpose of UBF fishing is to hand down the UBF ministry to children of UBF people.”

      “The UBF lifestyle is an endless cycle of work.”


  4. Thanks, Joshua, Brian. It seems that like implicit (or even explicit) paradigm in UBF is God, Mission/Ministry, Family (spouse/children). We know why we do this. We want to put God and his kingdom first (Mt 6:33). We do not want to allow family to become our priority and idolatry.

    The problem of course becomes that our family (spouse/children) may inadvertently be sacrificed on the altar of “serving God’s mission” and ministry.

    Than as we nobly avoid idolizing our own beloved family, we may end up idolizing our mission and our ministry instead. God, have mercy!

    • Ben, while I like your sentiment, I have a big problem with this statement: “The problem of course becomes that our family (spouse/children) may inadvertently be sacrificed on the altar of “serving God’s mission” and ministry.”

      Inadvertently? That sounds nice. But we all know that in ubf sacrificing family at the altar of mission is intentional. Not only is such a thing intentional in ubf, it is preached as “godly” and “healthy”, and “biblical”. Such thinking is none of those things, but I let myself believe such nonsense for many years.

      One basis for such aberrant teaching is Genesis 22. ubf falsely concludes from Genesis 22 that God wants Christians to sacrifice their “Isaac”. The whole point of those events were that God did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed, which stands in stark contradiction to the evil nature of many people in that generation who literally sacrificed children on a whim to appease their gods.

      What is more, ubf entirely misses the amazing teachings from Genesis 22 about Jesus. Instead, that passage becomes the supreme guilt-trip passage to hammer home ubf ideology in order to “help them understand and accept these core values based on the Bible until they are self-motivated to participate in the work of God with their own initiatives.”

      Binding the bible text to ubf heritage has always been the “secret sauce” of ubf (thanks for that term Chris!) At least now we have public evidence of such Confucian-based Christianity, as was just proclaimed at the recent self-righteous gathering in Ohio.

      The failure of ubf leaders to repent of such teaching, and even to preach it more openly and intensely, indicates to me that ubf has decided to live with the cult label for decades to come.

    • That’s right, Brian, Gen 22 was frequently used in that context. God asked Abraham to offer Isaac because he lived a family-centered life. Here is a typical UBF Bible interpretation, quoted from a Chicago UBF message on the Internet: “When Abraham received the covenant of circumcision, he had been involved in a family-centered life with his son Ishmael for thirteen years. Abraham was too busy having backyard barbecues with Ishmael to spend time in prayer and Bible study. He lost God’s great purpose for him and became a kind of noble father, according to his human desire.” You can find this interpretation also when you google for “Elijah Park testimony Kwangju 50th anniversary”, see the section ” Abraham’s family-centered life without mission”. This is official UBF teaching: Family-centered life is bad and opposed to mission.

      It would be interesting to know what UBF leaders think about Tit 2:4-5: “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, … that the word of God may not be reviled.” Isn’t this describing a family-centered life? Strangely, our women missionaries often repented for doing exactly what that verse told them to do.

    • And this isn’t just “bad theology” that is harmless. When this extreme, non-Christ-like teaching based on Genesis 22 is ingrained in the fabric of your life, people get hurt.

      The obvious examples are the abortions. In one case, a ubf missionary-candidate couple was chosen to go to the USA. But after beginning their missionary ubf training, the wife became pregnant. The order from on-high was to have an abortion in order to continue the missionary training. If she gave birth, they would not be sent as missionaries. Thankfully, that couple had some sense of reality and left ubf.

  5. When did the idea come that seeking God and God’s kingdom first is accomplished by prioritizing mission and ministry? It contradicts the passage itself. I don’t know where this idea came from, but I can tell you that it made it very easy to ignore the hard responsibilities of parenthood and marriage for the comparatively “easier” cross of fishing and 1:1 Bible study.

    Personally, I think that the possibility of “idolizing” our family is very unlikely in practice. Parents know that children are difficult to properly raise and instruct. Spouses know that being married requires a lot of deliberate effort to grow in love. The fact that these things are difficult and require denial of self and a decision to love as Jesus loved makes me think that it is very unlikely that they will become an idol in a person’s heart. Rather, we idolize things that gratify our sinful nature, not things that challenge us to grow in the image of God our Heavenly Father.

    • Joshua, your thoughts remind me once again how upside-down my ubf fantasy life really was. I used to think ubf was such a “high calling” and such a “devoted, difficult life”. It was shocking when I asked a pastor friend of mine what his honest reaction was to a senior ubf leader’s Sunday message. His only comment was that it was shallow.

      I find that to learn how to act, talk, and think like Jesus is what is really difficult. ubf life got so easy I became bored. I could whip up a bible study or message in literally 5 minutes! But to learn how to be a husband and a father? Now that is a real challenge.

      You asked, “When did the idea come that seeking God and God’s kingdom first is accomplished by prioritizing mission and ministry?” I can tell you one root cause: incorrectly understanding Ephesians 2.

      ubf leaders always quote Ephesians 2:10. But they skip over Ephesians 2:1-9. And so verses that explain the gospel, like Ephesians 2:8 get lost. And the amazing truths in Ephesians 2:11-22 get skewed and tainted by verse 10.

  6. In my time in UBF, in many UBF chapters, a “family-centered” life style was considered as opposite to the UBF “life-giving spirit” = “mission-centered” life style. I often heard missionaries and shepherds repent of their family centered life. It was considered as something un-spiritual or even anti-spiritual. Something close to a “self-centered” life and as bad as “ungodly humanism and individualism”. Therefore, husband and wife also had to refer to each other as “co-worker”, not as husband and wife. It’s a problem that existed in UBF from the very beginnings. All cults and extreme ideologies do such things. They do not want their followers to spend time together which is wasted time in their eyes, they want them to consider the group as their real family. Also, people should trust their leaders more than their family members. My wife read the book “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang which tells a Chinese family history that also covers the time of Mao, and how they lived as a young couple and family under Mao. She said it reminded her so much of UBF. She was right. Exactly the same pattern. The party is everything, the family is nothing. Don’t spend time together, spend your time for the big vision of the big leader.

    • Chris, your experiences from earlier match my experiences in recent years. I’m glad to hear your family received some healing from the “Wild Swans” book. I still need to get to that one on my list.

      I believe such odd teachings arise in ubf because of the attempts to reconcile the Bible with Confucianism. This is often an unconscious phenomena that goes on in the mind of a ubf member. They don’t realize it but they are trying to reconcile “hsiao” (family piety) with “chung” (loyalty to ruling authority), all the while hoping to find or create a “junzi” (noble man) to rescue them. Add “li” (etiquette) and “ren” (benevolence) into the mix and you’ll start to undertand the ubf interpretations of the bible and why they emphasize certain passage SO much.

  7. I have a completely different experience as a 2nd gen….
    My dad is the same at the pulpit and off. He is a dad to everyone in our church.
    Even his sermons are more like conversations.
    What always moved me was that in doing missionary work my Dad’s
    first prayer topic was always us. (maybe because we were problematic kids and my parents needed the extra prayer support;) We were always mentioned in any and every testimony/report.
    Even now my Dad and I work at the same school and every single time he is with one of his students and I pass by he says, “That’s my daughter.” It gets kind off annoying sometimes…
    My Dad’s not perfect, but he’s always done his job as a Dad well.

    • Thanks, MJ, for your lovely testimony about your lovely dad. Perhaps funny to say, but I love him too!

    • Glad to hear that, MJ. I’m not surprised, given your family background. We need more families like yours…unfortunately such good people are either driven out of ubf or sent off to a foreign land or sent out to pioneer by themselves.

  8. Thanks, Chris, Joshua. I was almost going to write a blog entitled “Don’t Be Family Centered,” because it promotes a kind of asceticism and dualism and artificial dichotomy that says that “mission-centered is good and godly,” but “family-centered is bad and selfish.”

    I understand because Jesus did say explicitly and warn about this (Lk 14:26-27). Yet this needs to be understood in the context of loving family relationships (Eph 5:21-6:9). Any skewed teaching or directive, such as, “Don’t be family-centered” is really being unfaithful to the whole teaching/will/counsel of God in the Bible (Acts 20:27).

    Also, since UBF is an Asian based ministry, Asians are very communalistic, in contrast to the west who are individualistic. Thus, being family-centered is to put self and family ahead of community and church. Again, such dualistic teachings distorts the beauty of Christ and the gist of biblically based teachings, which embraces both community as well as the individual. Emphasizing either extreme perverts what the Bible teaches.

  9. “For two days and one night, almost all leaders and sheep wrote two reflections through which they repented and made a clear decision to sincerely serve the Lord. Especially many junior lay-shepherd families who used to be tied up with work and caring for children repented and made a decision to enthusiastically serve the Lord”. http://www.ubf.org/node/1435

    “For example, a shepherd who had left UBF came back with repentance and shared his testimony with many tears”. May be I should also repent of my caring for children and come back to this precious and healthy ubf ministry with tears?! ))) Brian, what do you think about coming back to ubf?

    • Go back to ubf? Proverbs 26:11 comes to mind: “As a dog eats its own vomit, so fools recycle silliness.”

      Go back and submit all over again to my shepherd? Go back and re-bind my family’s lives to ubf heritage? Go back and put my head in the sand again? Go back and forget all that happened the past two years? Never.

      I’ve already stated some required changes I would need to see (elsewhere on this blog) before I would even consider attending a ubf event, let alone returning.

      ubf is not a healthy group to join right now. Yes there are a few bright spots of actual change, such as The Well, Westloop and Mr. Armstrong’s involvement. But it will take decades for such small changes to permeate to all the satellite chapters outside of Chicago, USA.

      Regardless of any good thing going on in Chicago, the basic issues remain:

      1) ubf has not publicly addressed the cult labels and instead seems to view the labels as some sort of badge of honor.

      2) ubf continues to allow abusive leaders to be in positions of authority. Some who have been involved in physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological abuse have not been properly addressed.

      3) ubf continues to promote “covenant/covering theology” and maintains that self-appointed shepherds are to have authority over a sheep they choose for the rest of their life.

      4) ubf continues to care about and promote passing on “ubf heritage” more than living and sharing the gospel of Jesus, refusing to repent of Confucian concepts in their ideology.

      5) ubf continues to ignore the Christian doctrines of grace and Lordship of Jesus, replacing the role of the Holy Spirit with human authority.

      More thoughts here:

    • And one more point: God needs someone to be there for future members of ubf who decide to leave. My wife and I have been away from ubf since 2004 (even though I didn’t fully repent until 2011). So we are able to play a role of counselor for those who go through the shunning process.

  10. It seems that I have lost the right to comment here…

    • You are always welcome to comment here Vitaly! Sorry, your comments got held up in the spam prevention queue. I just released them and marked them as safe.

  11. It works! I don’t know why but I wasn’t able to submit comments with a link. Without links it works. The first of my comments is one of my many tries to submit. The right is with me, just a technical problem… )))

  12. Thank you, admin.

  13. Thanks for pointing out that report, Vitaly. The report was posted November 20, 2012 (yesterday).


    The brief words in this report clearly reveal some of the problems I just posted about:

    “Currently, we are studying Romans, which gives us a great challenge to struggle spiritually for sanctification. We are ready and willing to fight against the sin of this generation depending on the power of the Holy Spirit through reciting Romans 8, the whole chapter.”

    ubf almost universally teaches the gospel of “change yourself”. Here the reporter says “struggle spiritually for sanctification”. Where is the grace-powered sanctification that John Piper and others correctly teach?

    Where is the obedience and leading of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of God is not some magical power that we “depend on”. The Spirit of God is God–to whom believers ought to be learning to listen to and obey. Is God dead? Why does ubf always act as if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?

    Such things are why good Christian leaders who become indwelt with the Spirit of God by God’s grace will continue to leave ubf or take a louder and bolder stand internally. And it is why I will remain outside of ubf to meet those who leave, as I’ve done dozens of times the past 2 years already.

    The other sentence is even worse:

    “We are ready and willing to fight against the sin of this generation depending on the power of the Holy Spirit through reciting Romans 8, the whole chapter.”

    ubf leaders still think that by reciting the bible, they will find power. Jesus had words against this thinking:

    39-40 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

    41-44 “I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?

    45-47 “But don’t think I’m going to accuse you before my Father. Moses, in whom you put so much stock, is your accuser. If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe me. He wrote of me. If you won’t take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seriously what I speak?” John 5:39-47

  14. To tie this all back to Ben’s article and questions, we should also ask, “What do bible students want from a bible teacher?”

    I’m not sure what I’d want, right now I would say “nothing”. But here is what I didn’t want, but got:

    1. A dad, not a pastor– I got an authority figure.

    2. Conversation, not sermons– I got conflicting and confusing Confucian teachings.

    3. Your interest in their hobbies– I got rebukes for doing anything I ever liked to do.

    4. To be studied– I was told “It’s none of your business” after merely raising the possibility of problems.

    5. Consistency from you– I got dual-standards continually and was given so many bizarre directions; I realize now that the only point was to train me in obedience to a human authority figure and to be loyal to the heritage.

    6. Grace to fail– I got judgment and criticism for succeeding.

    7.A single moral standard– I got multiple standards, some moral, some not. For example, attending a family wedding was cause to be publicly called an agent of Satan.

  15. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    When John and I married, one of the best wedding gift I received was a book from my Bible Teacher about, “Raising your child to Christ.” by Andrew Murray. I read this book and each chapter ended with a prayer and I also prayed the prayers. One thing he said was that having a child is the most important responsibility a person can have. To raise this child to believe and love Christ is an important mission from God. He also said that parents should have a license to raise children. With fear and trembling, John and I accepted this mission from God. Though we were UBF shepherds we knew that our children is our responsibilities before God not the church. When the children were young they had a date with their dad on Saturdays, one on one. John would take one of them to MacDonalds and they could order a happy meal and he would talk to them about their week. Then he would take them to the dollar store to buy three items. We didn’t have much money. But it made them feel so special. We have a choice how we live our lives and how we raise our children. We can not blame other people or an organization. As a teacher when a parent comes to me and said that another child made her child do something or act in an improper way, I tell her. Her child had a choice. No one can make you do something. Freedom of choice is the most precious gift God gave to each of us. Please stop blaming UBF. One thing that moved me about my UBF experience was that Christy, though she had four kids had time to teach me the Bible and Dr. Ben my fellowship leader treated me like his own daughter. Their example of raising their children was an example for John and I. Being a parent does not end when our children become 18. It ends when we go to God’s kingdom. John and I will always pray for our children to our dying breath because it is our greatest mission and privilege from God.

    • That is very good to hear, Maria. Freedom is indeed a basic issue in regard to being a shepherd. As Christians, we have the “keys of heaven”. We have “heaven in the palm of our hand.” You and John used such a gift properly.

      The issue is many UBF shepherds have not used the gift properly. Many have used their gifts to bind people to the UBF heritage. I myself am now being unbound and it is awesome.

      Jesus said His followers need to be careful of this binding, Matthew 18:18. Binding people’s lives, especially young students and children, to an ideology is a serious matter. When such binding occurs, it is proper and healthy to point it out, and I will continue to do so.

    • Darren Gruett

      Maria, me and my wife are reading that book now. It was given to us about a month ago from some friends who had their son dedicated along with our daughter. I love it. It is my favorite book next to the Bible right now!

    • Hi, Maria! I think that your comment could be one of the best critique against ubf ) You received a good book about raising children, but as Brian testifies Lee sent a missionary candidate family a letter in which he told them to make an abortion in order to go as missionaries. That was not such a good and pleasant gift )) You write about the freedom to make choice. You are right. But don’t you think that the people who left ubf chose the right thing? Recently we had a Bible study on 1 Peter 3 and saw the importance of good conscience before God. The missionary candidate family left ubf – wasn’t that the right choice of good Christian conscience?! I saw for many years that ubf leaders suppress the gift of God you mentioned. So a ubf member is often not about making some choice what to do and how to do, but the leader tells him/her what to do and how to do. So the choice left is only: to obey the leader or not to obey. I chose to obey for many years and so did many other people. But once upon a time the Holy Spirit and my conscience led me to repent of my obedience to ubf leaders. I agree with Brian that there were and are so many so to say strange and unbiblical “directions” in ubf. You respect your Bible teacher that she managed to take care of her many children and to teach you. But what is the usual thing ubf shepherds and missionaries are busy with? It is not Bible teaching that prevent parents from their duties in ubf, it is a huge quantity of meetings. Not to mention every morning “daily bread” meetings in the center I spent every evening in the center for the sake of the “absolutely important” meetings. And we had two meetings on Saturdays and two on Sundays. I suppose you read Andrew Shpagin’s words that he was ordered to come back to the center after sws though he was very sick. I can give an example that I was ordered to come to the center even with newborn son when it was -35 C outside and after that “important” meeting my wife and my son spent more than a week in the hospital. Had I a choice to act another way? No! Not in ubf. It is just one of many examples, thousands of examples. And the orders were given to us in absolutely everything. Was I able to spend more time with my children? No! Absolutely not! After leaving ubf I went to a concert where my both children were in the orchestra. It was for the first time I saw my children playing! And it became possible only after leaving ubf. There, listening to a beautiful music, for the first time I understood that I was created free! And that I am now free at last! As the healed blind-born in the Bible now I know one thing: God made me free through leaving ubf! I will praise Jesus for this freedom all my life.

    • Now you say, “Stop blaming ubf”. Why?! You are blaming ubf yourself! You made a right choice to take care of your children INSPITE of ubf teaching, not according to. You made your choice to have your own chapter because you were not able to stay at a usual and traditional ubf chapter. You took all your children from other ubf chapters. What are your actions testify about? That ubf is good? I don’t think so. You clearly testify to me and to many others that ubf is really bad. And once you mentioned about Mark who is now in your chapter. I know from the ubf news that he got married to a sister from the USA not long ago. What happened? Why is he now in your chapter, going through a process of “healing”. Where was he wounded? Maybe there was a mistake in his “marriage by faith”? If so who made that mistake: God? Or ubf leaders? Or Mark himself made a wrong choice to absolutely obey his missionary shepherd? Of course I agree with you that it was my fault to make such a choice to obey my ubf chapter director for 16 years, leaving many Christian responsibilities behind, including caring for children. I kicked against the goads, I so often acted against my conscience. I was a very very “sacrificial shepherd” in ubf terms. But I have repented and is under God’s great grace. Now I have the good conscience before God, and I think that at least in my ubf chapter it was IMPOSSIBLE to have. I don’t think that I should stop blaming ubf. Other people’s testimonies helped me to come to my senses and leave ubf, and I am thankful for that. I hope that maybe my testimony may help someone else.

    • Maria, you said, “No one can make you do something. Freedom of choice is the most precious gift God gave to each of us.”

      This is not true. Human beings can be persuaded. Guilt, peer pressure, persuasion, influence– all are real issues we all have to deal with.

      Exasperation is also real. I gave up many times in ubf and just conformed to what was going on many times just because it was too much hassle to fight back. It wasn’t worth the arguing, the screaming, the fighting, the agony that I saw and heard so much of other people doing in ubf.

      Add the Bible into the mix and you’ve got a dangerous cocktail. I really wanted to be a peacemaker, and to be humble and meek. So if something bothered me, why would I make a stand? After a while, I just wanted to be left alone, and the fastest and easiest way to do that in ubf is to just conform outwardly. Usually I could do that without losing my heart. Which is why I was treated far better than most people in ubf, perhaps.

      You may think that you always make your own decision, but that is also not true. As Vitaly correctly pointed out, authority figures can and will make decisions for you, and then leave you with only the choice to obey or disobey.

      I remember one ubf dictator always asking “do you want high quality or low quality life?” Well what idiot wants “low quality life”? So we had people making stupid decisions in order to have a “high quality” life!

      Freedom of choice is a precious gift, I agree on that. If so, then why don’t ubf directors acknowledge this? Will they ever admit it? Will they ever concede power and authority to God?

  16. Thanks, Maria, for your kind words.

    These days, I am personally witnessing up close, your three kids who are serving with me at West Loop. Their presence and spirit are such a joy and delight to me and to everyone else. Since they have been with us in Chicago over the past year, our entire church feels “upgraded,” with their zeal, enthusiasm, and authenticity. Without a doubt, they are the fruit of John’s and your love, faith and joy in the Lord. PTL!

  17. Amen, and amen, Vitaly. By the way, I too have started to see my children’s concerts more. After leaving, I also started to feel like I’m married!

    A fundamental issue here is our choice. Someone like Maria may wonder: If ubf is so bad, why did you choose to stay so long? Why did you let yourself make bad decisions? I’ve wondered these questions myself. In short, such questions blame the person.

    I found that part of my reason for staying in ubf for 24 years and part of the reason why I ignored my conscience for so long was because I really, really want to love Jesus and serve God’s mission. Even before ubf I wanted to be a priest. I find that I was blinded by such desire. And such desire was never checked in ubf, but only encouraged. The more good things I gave up, the more praise I got.

    I think it goes both ways. Shepherds get a sort of “holy high” when their ubf sheep conform or sacrifice for the sake of ubf heritage. One long-time ubf missionary told me how Koreans and Americans/Russians/Germans/etc. gave each other a mutual high– sort of a yin/yang type escalation of grandiose vision. I am much more happy and peaceful now that the “vision” is gone. I can now see myself and others much more naturally and in a more healthy way.

    There are also many reasons why people join controlling groups.

  18. Thanks, Vitaly, Brian, for sharing. “I feel your pain.” It is unfortunate and inexcusable, which I have repeatedly expressed.

    Again, this is not to justify what was done, but to propose an explanation as to why it happened: Sinners sin even after they become Christians.

    Christian men lust and give in to pornography even after a very happy Christian marriage with a lovely loving wife. Christians who were junkies or drunkards relapse from time to time after conversion. Those who are lazy and undisciplined might remain so after becoming Christians. Genuine Christians suffer from profound depression, and on rare occasions, may even commit suicide.

    Our missionaries, shepherds and chapter leaders, are also sinners. Their sin is subtle and somewhat culturally conditioned. One of their sins is that their sin should not be pointed out by juniors, and definitely not publicly or by mass email. That’s why some want UBFriends to be removed permanently, and why some “hate” email.

    Does it mean they are not genuine Christians? They need grace just as much as a Christian who has committed adultery. Maybe they need even “more grace” because an adulterer’s sin is blatantly obvious, while a Christian’s Pharisee-like sins are usually not blatantly behaviorally obvious, and it is usually subtle, implicit and indirect.

    They need grace from Jesus, and even from those they bullied and abused for decades! I’m not saying to cut them any flak, but to give them grace, which is really no different from what Jesus has given us who may have been abused, controlled, manipulated, guilt-tripped and lorded over and bossed over by such UBF leaders in the name of shepherding.

    • Thanks, Ben. I understand the explanations. But I’m not looking for explanations. I’m looking for resolutions.

      Leaving ubf helped put me in a place where I could begin to see reality. But unresolved issues remain. I and others need resolution. Perhaps we won’t get it in this lifetime, but I have to try.

      In regard to extending grace, I believe Jesus was showing grace to the religious leaders when he pointed out their power and authority abuses. In other words, I believe Jesus showed us at least two sides of grace– a passive side and an aggressive side.

      The pattern of ubf leaders up to now has been to take a Buddhist-style punishment, to allow themselves to be a “whipping boy” and then quietly go on the same way afterward.

      Such actions are not Christian repentance. I and others are calling the ubf directors out, challenging them to repent publicly.

  19. Just as a shepherd cannot “make their sheep repent,” thus no one can call out and make UBF directors repent, either publicly or even privately.

    I’m not saying that you or others should not try or keep challenging, but to keep pressing may actually work against any person’s repentance.

    What really causes you and I to truly repent is the weakness, seeming powerlessness and vulnerability of Jesus on the cross. That is the paradox of true inner gospel transformation, reformation and resolution.

    Power moves, politicking, clandestine maneuvers, threats and challenges may not necessarily work or rarely ever effect true change. Because even if it does, then man gets the credit. But from a position of weakness, helplessness, powerlessness, and vulnerability, God gets all the credit and the glory if and when transformation occurs.

    In the final analysis, whenever or whether or not UBF changes is never any man’s call or evaluation or assessment. God does whatever pleases Himself (Ps 115:3; 135:6), and the Spirit is NEVER predictable (Jn 3:8). God may not necessarily work according to my expectation, zeal, enthusiasm, passion, relentlessness, hope, or desire. Thank God for that!

    • Ben, I agree, on a personal level: “Just as a shepherd cannot “make their sheep repent,” thus no one can call out and make UBF directors repent, either publicly or even privately.”

      My intent is not to make individual directors repent. I’m not that naive. My intent is to put UBF as an entity on public trial.

      At the risk of being misunderstood more than I already am: 2012 marks the beginning of UBF being put on public trial by me. For over 50 years, the problems of UBF have been revealed internally in a myriad of ways: personally, politely, forcefully, angrily, peacefully, and many, many more ways by hundreds of people. After all that, we get the 50th Anniversary self-glorification.

      My life is a living stop sign to UBF directors, an end to the UBF ideology.

      So far this year, I’ve identified the following “redeemed UBF”:

      -Westloop Church
      -The Well
      -Penn State Church

      And we have the first ever public announcement with real data and real communication from the general director:

      I have no idea what UBF should do or what it would look like in the future. I only know that I must speak up.

    • Ben, you write correctly: “Just as a shepherd cannot “make their sheep repent,” thus no one can call out and make UBF directors repent, either publicly or even privately.” That’s certainly true.

      But then you continue: “I’m not saying that you or others should not try or keep challenging, but to keep pressing may actually work against any person’s repentance.”

      I think you should make your mind up clearly here. Should they be challenged or not? I think we all agree they should. Should we *keep* challenging if they don’t listen?

      I think Mt 18:15 is clear here. It does not say, “if they will not listen, then leave them alone, don’t mention the problem any more and wait until they repent on their own”. No, the passage says to not only keep on challenging them, but to even let the issue escalate and increase the pressure. And then, as the last step, if even the escalation does not help, Mt 18:15 says we shold separate from such people. This means, if there is a church member who openly sins and refuses to repent for real and obvious sins, the person should be excluded from the church and church community. That’s what the Bible demands. Mt 18:15, 1 Cor 5 and many other passages are very clear about that. I’m really baffled why UBF members who claim to follow only the Bible and take it literally do not follow this very explicit and clear teaching.

      What do you think can we learn from the story of Eli and his sons in the OT? Some people think that he failed disciplining his children, so we should discipline them more. But I think that’s not the point here. His sons were already adult *priests* when they sinned. Elis problem was that he did not keep challening them about their sins that they commited in their function as priests, and did not let it escalate. Maybe he had similar thoughts as you have about UBF leaders, but it’s not right and his not taking these problems seriously brought doom about his own house.

      We’re not talking about pressing non-believers to repent. This is a different issue. We’re talking about pressing people who claim to be servants of God, to be royal priests, who are themselves pressing others to do a lot of things Jesus never commanded, in the name of Jesus. In such a case, my view is that only the strictest measuremeant can and must be applied here.

      As a side node concerning child neglect in UBF: I can witness that the problem really exists, even if some people like Maria may care for their children and have their own minds. I have seen it in my chapter, and in a very extreme form in another chapter. Even the media reported about this. In my chapter, for example, my wife was asked to stop breast-feeding her baby in order to have more time for UBF. Now Maria says, nobody can make you do anything, people have their own minds. That’s simply not true. It’s perfectly possible to manipulate people and make them do what you want. Particularly if you claim to be kind of God’s mediator to that person, “the servant of God” or whatever, and back up your demands with twisted Bible interpretations. This is exactly the thing that most ex UBFers are so angry about, that UBF made them do things that did not correspond with their own conscience. In UBF I was told by a Korean missionary that the concept of conscience does not even exist in the Bible, the only important concept was that of “absolute” obedience. One of SL’s famous words was “with a little training, UBF shepherds can do anything”. I think what he really meant was “with a little training, I can make them do anything”. The sole purpose of his training and the training I got from my shepherds was to break the free and individual will of people and make them obey what they are told without asking questions.

  20. Darren Gruett

    Ben, what you say about Christians continuing to sin is so true. It pains me a lot when I see from other Christians an attitude of self-righteousness toward other believers who are still struggling with certain things in their lives. As for me, I am so thankful for what I have come to understand and love through the doctrines of grace.

    Also, in regards to what moves sinners to repentance, I always think of Paul’s words in Romans 2:4. Personally, I am always convicted by this, realizing how much kindness God has shown me so that I will repent of my sins.

    • Darren, that verse was one of the verses I used to justify my remaining in ubf and not speaking up. I wanted to show kindness, and double-honor as another verse says. For over 20 years I remained silent, hoping for some change, for some relief, but not really understanding the reality around me. That lead to my building a cocoon around myself.

      Now I won’t remain silent, and God is changing my “shy, quiet, gentle” nature to have a forehead of flint.

      God is making he who had no voice to be a voice. Like Balaam’s donkey, I am sitting down and not moving.

    • Darren Gruett

      I hear completely what you’re saying, Brian. Actually, my comment was not really directed at UBF specifically, or anyone in it. I was actually thinking more about myself, and how I prefer to be treated when I sin. I think kindness, as an extension of love, demands that we call others to account when they sin. It is unloving to do otherwise.

    • Thanks Darren, I’m glad to hear the clarification, especially for our readers. Kindness is indeed an important virtue to consider when dealing with sin.

      And kindness or love does indeed call us to speak out against oppression and misuse of authority. I think that is one reason we former members end up feeling a bit like Martin Luther or William Wilberforce or William Wallace or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I find solace in the words and actions of such people.

  21. Thanks, Chris, for your response and your always interesting yet quite unfortunate and misguided accounts of some UBF leaders’ direction, some of which I have heard before, such as stop breast feeding after 1 month.

    I am not saying that error and evil should not be challenged or even continually confronted. But what I am saying is that forcing for something to happen, even if it is something good and bibibical, might be denying the sovereignty of God, who is allowing for sins committed to build up until God’s right time to deal with it in His own way and in His own time.

    Love ultimately wins one’s heart. Jesus challenged the sin of the world with love unto death, even like a silent lamb led to the slaughter. That likely had a far greater power of transformation than the 7 woes of Matthew 23.

    I am not saying that you or Brian or Vitaly or others should not keep pointing out the “past and present sins of UBF.” But by doing so online, which might be your primary or only recourse, may not necessarily be the most optimal way to promote change, reformation and reform.

    I have personally learned more about UBF from you, than from people in UBF. Because of that, I have come to really love you guys, even though I have not met some of you in person.

    Whether you realize it or not, what you have written and are writing, is having some impact, but probably not as fast or as much as you would wish. Nonetheless it is promoting a more transparent culture that challenges our longstanding unhealthy clandestine oligarchic culture.

    For that I thank God for all of you. God willing, I would like to travel to Germany and Yakaterinburgh someday to meet you and your families in person. If not, we shall meet on the other side of the eschaton.

    • Good point Ben! “But by doing so online, which might be your primary or only recourse, may not necessarily be the most optimal way to promote change, reformation and reform.”

      I agree. I, for one, don’t have the purpose of change, reformation or reform. My purpose is redemption, accountability and healing.

      Or to put it another way: I aim to examine, explain and expose. And I’ll accept whatever consequences there are to my online blogging.

  22. Right, Darren. Friends who tell you the truth are so much better than people who flatter or fear you. If you look up the passage Lev 3:18 that says “love your neighbor as yourself” (amazing that this verse can be found, of all books, in Leviticus!) and read the preceding verse, it says “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” Apparently these things belong together. People who criticize frankly are often blamed for “hating”. The opposite is the case. Frank rebuke and love are not opposites, but accompany each other.

    But this verse also teaches another principle: If you see your neighbour Israelite sinning, and do *not* rebuke him, or in the case of a church, see your brother or even “shepherd” sinning, and keep silent, you share in their guilt. You may think you’re doing them a favor, but you’re doing them a disfavor, and you start even sinning yourself by not speaking up.

    • Maria Peace
      Maria Peace

      Darren, I’m glad you are reading the book written by Andrew Murray. Ben I am so happy that our children are in your ministry. Vitaly, Brian, and Chris what can I say. Luke 23:34, Jesus prayed for the very people who were crucifying him and forgave them. No matter what is said and done, I consider you guys my brothers because we believe in the same Heavenly Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit.

  23. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    A little clarification, I don’t mean you guys are crucifying me but that whatever happens in our lives and hurt we encountered the answer is always forgiveness.

    • Thank you Maria! I am glad to consider you a sister in Christ. I think God is stretching all of us beyond our comfort zone, so we all feel the pain of crucifixion. In this I rejoice.

  24. Maria, “the answer is always forgiveness” sounds good, but what do you really mean with this? Sure, we should always try to forgive, but is that all that we should do? Tell me, if forgiveness is the answer, why are passages like Mt 18:15ff and 1Cor 5:9ff in the Bible? Why did all the prophets of the OT until John the Baptist bother so much? If you see spiritual abuse done that hurts you or others, what will you do? Just forgive that person and move on?

  25. Thanks, Maria, Chris.

    Sometimes we Christians think too simplistically that we can just forgive others, “because the Bible says we should forgive.” Just because the Bible says, “don’t lust” doesn’t mean that we can just stop lusting.

    Thus, especially for an “innocent” party (such as a “sheep who was spiritually abused” by their shepherd for many years), forgiving the shepherd or leader is far from easy. It cannot just be said casually, or dismissively or intellectually, “Yeah, I forgave him.” Real forgiveness would involve going through multiple agonies of crucifixion.

    This 7 min video by Miroslav Volf sheds some light on the difficulty and complexity of forgiving others: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8fbjzQcTws

  26. Here’s a “complex” quote on forgiveness from Volf, which I think that “victims of abuse” can appreciate more than the perpetrators of abuse:

    “Forgiveness places us on a boundary between enmity and friendship, between exclusion and embrace. It tears down the wall of hostility that wrongdoing erects, but it doesn’t take us into the territory of friendship. Often, that’s all we can muster the strength to do, and all that offenders will allow us. Yet at its best, forgiveness hopes for more.”

    Those who lack understanding will simply say, “Just forgive.” Honestly, no one can “just” forgive, especially if the offense is bad or protracted.

    • Very good thoughts here Ben. One issue is that UBF interchanges forgiveness with “cover up”. The two are not the same. Plus to “cover up” sin is harshly rebuked in Scripture, and is not the same thing as “covering over” sin through love.

      Forgiveness might include some sort of forgetting, but forgiveness and “forgetting the past” also should not be used interchangeably. They are two different concepts that do not always go together.

      In the cohort class I’m taking, one person shared a story about their abuse in the past. The person said, “I know I should forget…”. Our pastor immediately stopped the person and said, “Who told you to forget? Don’t forget so that the abuse is not repeated.”

      I have forgiven my ubf shepherd and all ubf people. But I will not forget the abuse.

      By the way, if I had JUST ONE honest, open, public answer or even acknowledgement or even response of any kind from ubf directors or senior leaders, my blogging negatively about ubf would slow down. If I heard a specific apology and specific plans to stop the abuse, I might even consider saying something nice about ubf :)

      If I heard even ONE honest testimony reflecting on the mass exodus of UBF leaders or the current crisis in UBF, WITHOUT the “ubf-is-good-so-love-God-and-shut-up” statements, I might even write a “praise God” testimony complete with “one word”! …

      So far, only you (Ben) and JoeS. have given me the time of day (among ubf leaders). A couple other leaders engaged in a few polite emails, but in the end I’ve been dismissed almost entirely or invited to a meeting where I would be dismissed entirely.

      The trust is gone and that is an issue way beyond forgiveness.

    • To be fair… I should give a shout out to other ubf people: Maria, John Y, Mark Y, Augustine Sohn and three friends in Toledo who have given me far more than just the “time of day” :) Such things have been invaluable, as I am hungry for dialogue and thirsty for answers these days.

  27. It is said that forgiveness is a journey, not a one-time event.